Get ready: Friday could be busiest ever for security lines at Atlanta airport

Hartsfield-Jackson expects more than 2.5M passengers; AAA says 1.6M drivers to hit the road
June 29, 2023 Atlanta: Travelers came ready to fly on Friday, June 29, 2023 and was a busy day for security queues at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. More than 103,000 departing passengers were expected to pass through TSA checkpoints surpassing the record set on the Monday after the Super Bowl in Atlanta in 2019, said Robert Spinden, TSA’s federal security director in Atlanta. The July 4 holiday period will bring more travelers not just to airports, but also on the highways. AAA said it expects a record 1.6 million people in Georgia to travel for the period running from June 30 through July 4, most of them going by car. Travelers should “expect to see congested roads, busy hotels, and long lines at airports and attractions,” said Debbie Haas, AAA’s vice president of travel, in a written statement. Nationally, the auto club expects 43.2 million people will take road trips and a record 4.17 million people will fly for Independence Day travel. Heavy crowds at the world’s busiest airport throughout the holiday period from Thursday through July 6 will mean long lines and wait times at airport security checkpoints during peak times. Most planes will be full or nearly full. The busiest days are expected to be Thursday and Friday. Total traffic including connecting passengers at the Atlanta airport, is expected to total more than 350,000 on Thursday and nearly 370,000 on Friday. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

June 29, 2023 Atlanta: Travelers came ready to fly on Friday, June 29, 2023 and was a busy day for security queues at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. More than 103,000 departing passengers were expected to pass through TSA checkpoints surpassing the record set on the Monday after the Super Bowl in Atlanta in 2019, said Robert Spinden, TSA’s federal security director in Atlanta. The July 4 holiday period will bring more travelers not just to airports, but also on the highways. AAA said it expects a record 1.6 million people in Georgia to travel for the period running from June 30 through July 4, most of them going by car. Travelers should “expect to see congested roads, busy hotels, and long lines at airports and attractions,” said Debbie Haas, AAA’s vice president of travel, in a written statement. Nationally, the auto club expects 43.2 million people will take road trips and a record 4.17 million people will fly for Independence Day travel. Heavy crowds at the world’s busiest airport throughout the holiday period from Thursday through July 6 will mean long lines and wait times at airport security checkpoints during peak times. Most planes will be full or nearly full. The busiest days are expected to be Thursday and Friday. Total traffic including connecting passengers at the Atlanta airport, is expected to total more than 350,000 on Thursday and nearly 370,000 on Friday. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Long lines and large crowds are expected at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for Fourth of July travel, with the airport expecting to handle more than 2.5 million passengers over the period.

Friday could be the busiest day ever for security queues at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, according to the Transportation Security Administration. More than 103,000 departing passengers are expected to pass through TSA checkpoints — surpassing the record set on the Monday after the Super Bowl in Atlanta in 2019, said Robert Spinden, TSA’s federal security director in Atlanta.

The July 4 holiday period will bring more travelers not just to airports, but also on the highways.

AAA said it expects a record 1.6 million people in Georgia to travel for the period running from June 30 through July 4, most of them going by car.

Travelers should “expect to see congested roads, busy hotels, and long lines at airports and attractions,” said Debbie Haas, AAA’s vice president of travel, in a written statement.

Nationally, the auto club expects 43.2 million people will take road trips and a record 4.17 million people will fly for Independence Day travel.

Heavy crowds at the world’s busiest airport throughout the holiday period from this Thursday through July 6 will mean long lines and wait times at airport security checkpoints during peak times. Most planes will be full or nearly full.

The busiest days are expected to be Thursday and Friday. Total traffic including connecting passengers at the Atlanta airport, is expected to total more than 350,000 on Thursday and nearly 370,000 on Friday. July 1, July 5 and July 6 will each bring more than 300,000 travelers, according to airport officials.

Hartsfield-Jackson is advising travelers to get to the terminal at least two hours before their flights. Travelers should also allow extra time to navigate traffic, congested airport roads and construction detours and to find parking.

Parking deck construction is already causing severe backups for motorists. In an attempt to alleviate traffic on airport roads and at curbside. The airport will begin allowing people to park for free inside airport-run parking decks for up to 30 minutes, to drop off or pick up passengers. That will take effect by Friday morning, airport officials said.

However, parking decks near the terminal often reach capacity during busy periods. The airport advises those parking at the airport to consider the remote ATL West deck connected to the domestic terminal by Sky Train — which also fills up at peak times — or other park-ride lots.

The busy holiday travel period comes as airlines recover from mass flight disruptions from thunderstorms Sunday in Atlanta and the Northeast. Some travelers were stranded at the airport over multiple days as storms and flight disruptions continued in the northeast.

“A lot of people were stuck in the airport overnight. Some have been here for two, three days,” said Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Balram Bheodari during a Wednesday city council transportation committee meeting.

Joe Miller, Delta’s vice president at ATL, said the airline spent Monday and Tuesday recovering from Sunday’s disruptions by working to get passengers to their destinations.

Traffic this summer is expected to be even heavier than last summer, when airlines became overwhelmed by the strong rebound in travel, resulting in mass flight cancellations and disruptions.

Bheodari expects total passenger counts this year to reach 104 million, up from 93.7 million last year and inching closer to the record 110.5 million seen in 2019.

(From left) Janae Batum, 17, Khiara Wilson, 17, and Kennedy Watson, 16, all from Houston, wait with their luggage along with others to catch their flight on Wednesday, June 28, 2023, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The high school students were traveling for a college visit to Spelman College. (Michael Blackshire/Michael.blackshire@ajc.com)

Credit: Michael Blackshire

icon to expand image

Credit: Michael Blackshire

On the busiest days this year, traffic has exceeded 2019 levels, Bheodari said. While regular weekly business travelers have yet to fully return, the volume of leisure travelers has skyrocketed, driving heavy congestion during holiday periods.

With the increase in less-experienced travelers taking to the skies, TSA and Atlanta police officials are also warning travelers to check their bags for prohibited items before heading to the airport.

“Almost every day, officers in Atlanta intercept firearms in the carry-on luggage of travelers,” Spinden said. So far this year, 199 firearms have been caught at passenger security checkpoints. All of the guns were loaded and the majority of the gun owners “stated that they had simply forgotten that it was in their bag,” Spinden said.


Travel tips

  • To avoid the heaviest highway congestion, leave in the early morning or after 6 p.m. The worst times to travel are afternoon periods on peak days.
  • If you’re taking a flight, arrive inside the airport terminal at least two hours before your flight. Allow extra time to navigate traffic and congested airport roads and to find parking.
  • If you are parking at the airport, consider booking a parking spot ahead of time at park-ride lots. Many airport decks and lots reach capacity during busy periods.

Source: INRIX, Hartsfield-Jackson